Tom DeLay Is Off the Hook...for Now
The Texas court of appeals for the Austin area ruled today that the evidence the State mustered against Tom DeLay was "legally insufficient" and reversed the jury's verdict and ordered that DeLay be acquitted of money laundering.
He's Smiling Because He's Free
Without delving into the weeds too much, the State's case was essentially this: DeLay raised $190,000 from corporations for one "political committee" (soft money), transferred that money to a different election committee and then distributed the $190,000 to seven GOP candidates from the latter hard money account. The transfer or "swap" of the funds from a soft money account to a hard money account was, according to the State and the jury, "dirty" and paying out the $190K to the GOP candidates was laundering the money -- hence the charge for money laundering. (The Republican National Committee was also involved (of course), but this is not important for present purposes).
Despite the fact that the prosecution called over 40 witnesses, the court ignored those witnesses and relied heavily on DeLay's witnesses in finding the evidence insufficient to prove that DeLay committed a crime. The court said that all of DeLay's corporate contributors testified that they believed their money was going to be used lawfully and they "sought to support DeLay and hoped to obtain access to DeLay."
Remarkably, though, DeLay's own co-defendants (one was a staffer for DeLay) pleaded guilty and paid fines. In other words, the other defendants admitted that they committed a substantially similar crime, or were involved in an illegal campaign contribution scheme, BUT the appeals court said DeLay did not.
What the Court really did was decide to credulously believe all of DeLay's witnesses (as if they were going to testify against DeLay's interests), then proceed to retry the case on paper -- via its opinion -- allegedly showing how each of State's theories of wrongdoing was incorrect, then, in a move I've never seen before, use the fact that the jury asked the judge two questions about the money laundering scheme as "evidence" that the jury was confused about the law because the State did not properly prove up its case.
What is not remarkable, however, is that of the three judges, the two who voted to acquit DeLay are Republicans. (The dissenting judge is a Democrat; good thing we have partisan judicial elections in Texas). Perhaps even more ironically, the judge who wrote the opinion acquitting DeLay -- elissa Goodwin, who graduated from the prestigious St. Mary's School of Law (that's sarcasm there folks) -- was fined $2,050 a couple years ago by the Texas Ethics Commission for, get this, wrongfully accepting a campaign contribution. Unreal.
I know at least one more person who is going to now have access to Tom DeLay. Ladies and Gentlemen, your Texas judiciary at work!